Top-end Audiophile USB Cable with Separate Signal and Power Cables
Jay Victor's design for Pangea Audio's Premier XL USB Cable goes all out with an ultra-quiet approach by using separate cables to carry the signal and the power. The only meeting point of the two cables is at the USB B connector.
Premier XL USB is packed full of other premium features, too. It boasts precision-wound 23-gauge signal conductors using the best copper on the market, Cardas Grade One Copper, plus a 6% pure silver plating. It also features nitrogen-injected foamed PE polyethylene insulation, quad shielding, and a tough woven nylon braided jacket.
It's Not Just Zeros and Ones
We occasionally get questions about USB cables from customers who are getting into digital audio streaming. They wonder why it would be worth investing in an audiophile-grade USB cable when they've been told that all USB cables are created equal as far as digital signals are concerned that a $5 cable conveys the "zeros and ones" of a digital stream just as well as a more expensive cable.
For the definitive answer, we asked Pangea Audio cable design expert, Jay Victor, "How can one digital USB cable sound better than another?"
"A USB cable is not just carrying a bunch of zeros and ones," explained Jay. "The cable carries an electrical signal from one circuit to another. Lots of things can interfere with this signal, like radio frequency interference (RFI) and electromagnetic interference (EMI). Anything that affect that signal will cause distortion. Some of these distortions are bound to be audible."
This made sense to us. We've heard differences between the various USB cables we sell. Some of our customers swear by USB cables costing $1,000 and more. So USB cable quality definitely matters. However, the cost of a high-quality cable doesn't have to break the bank. Especially when the cable is made by Pangea Audio.
"How Can We Make Our USB Cables Better?"
After three years of making and selling the popular Pangea Audio USB-PC and USB-AG cables, Pangea Audio challenged Jay. How could he make these cables even better?
"I can think of two things right away. We can increase the gauge of the signal conductors and use a more advanced type of insulation," answered Jay. "But give me a little time and I'll think of some more things to improve."
A few weeks later, Jay followed up. "I came up with three designs. One design Pangea Premier SE USB checks all the right boxes and gives you exactly what you're looking for at a price any audiophile can realistically afford. For the audiophile on a tight budget I created a similar cable using less exotic materials Pangea Prime USB. Then, just for my own pleasure, I created an 'uber' cable, Pangea Premier XL USB. It has an innovative design that's sure to be sonically superior to anything on the market under $400."
Pangea Audio Premier SE USB
"This will be your best-selling cable," predicted Jay, "Now officially called Premier SE. It features precision-wound 23-gauge signal conductors using the best copper on the market, Cardas Grade One Copper, made by George Cardas plus a 6% pure silver plating.
"The insulation used in Premier USB is an advanced form of PE polyethylene that has only been used in very high-end video applications. To the best of my knowledge, it has never been used in a USB cable before. It's a very good insulation that reduces noise and interference.
"The separately shielded power conductor is a very robust 20 awg copper conductor. Then the entire cable is wrapped in a double shield to reject electromagnetic and radio frequency noise. This cable should be priced well over $100, but I suspect you'll probably offer it for a bit less."
Pangea Audio Premier USB
"Your entry-level USB cable is also an audiophile design all the way. For Pangea Premier USB, I've taken the basics of the Premier SE design, including the advanced PE insulation and triple shielding. But in order to keep the price tag low and the performance level high, instead of using premium Cardas Grade One Copper, I substituted a high grade 23-gauge oxygen-free copper plated with 1.25% pure silver. This cable will kick ass if sold for anything less than $50."
Pangea Audio Premier XL USB
"My top-end cable, Pangea Premier XL USB, will take any system into a new dimension," beamed Jay. "The main problem with all USB cables is that the power conductor is inside the jacket close to the signal conductors. You can reduce interference from the power signal with a separate shielding and common-mode (twisted pair) shielding of the conductors as I do in all my designs, but I have figured out an even better way.
"Why not remove the power leg completely from the equation by putting it in its own cable? Its only meeting point will be at the USB B connector. This creates a cable with two USB legs, but most audiophiles don't use their USB cable to power their DAC. The power leg is only used to drive miniature portable DACs. I've tried this cable design in my own system and the improvement is somewhere between surprising and shocking. I mean 'shocking' as in shockingly good."
Hearing is Shockingly Believing
We tested Jay's new Premier XL USB cable with several high-end audio DACs and the improvement was indeed shocking shockingly good! We heard a bigger improvement with Premier XL USB than we heard with upgrading the DAC's power cord and, in one case, a bigger improvement than adding a separate external power supply. Yikes!
Try the Premier XL USB cable to hear the difference yourself. If you don't hear a huge improvement, please return for a full refund.
|Write Your Own Review|
When I write a product review I think of how I would describe my experience to a friend. Here goes. I ordered this cable on Sunday and it was waiting for me when I got home on Wednesday. The cable is well constructed with gold connectors and a tough sheathing over the conductors cable. This cable is different from all other USB cables I've used. The USB B end has one connector, then the cable divides into two cables with USB A ends. One is marked 'POWER' and the other "SIGNAL". I connected the cable between my Audio Alchemy DDP1 DAC and Auralic music streamer. I connected only the cable marked SIGNAL because I don't use the DAC to power the streamer and I try to follow the 'less is more' philosophy. It was immediately apparent a big change had occurred in the sound. A certain level of back ground-type noise - maybe digital artifact noise? - had vanished. My THIEL speakers sounded more alive. Images were more 3D. There is a warmth in the mid-band that I just love. LIke others have mentioned I can make out individual instruments all the way to the back of an orchestra. Over the past week I noticed other things. I notice more of what's going on in live recordings. I hear papers rustling in the orchestra. People coughing and moving around in their seats. I heard these sounds before but I couldn't make out exactly what they were. Now I can clearly make them out. This cable is Highly Recommended!
|- Alfredo G, CO|
This USB cable transformed my system. I wasnt expecting an increase in resolution of detail like I hear with this cable. Images have more focus. The treble is pristine. I hear better localization of bass instruments in the orchestra. A bigger difference than I was expecting.
|- Buzz H, MN|
|Suprised is an understatement|
I have spent a while building up my medium / high end headphone system, had really liked the Ifi Gemini cable and thought it was really good. I just switched the Pangea cable out for this and right out of the box.... WOW! Everything is more coherent and the sound separation and detail is definitely a step up! The sound stage is also better. Not sure how they did it but I am impressed and I have not even broken the cable in yet!
|- Kevin K, FL|
|Closer To The Music|
I replaced a two-year old Audioquest cable with this new XL USB cable and it really improved the sound of my Bryston DAC. It brings me closer to the music.
|- Jason Y, LA|
|Can't figure this cable out, but I like it|
I honestly can't figure out what this cable is doing to my system, but I like it. I keep going back and forth between a very expensive Transparent USB cable borrowed from a friend and this Premier XL. The Transparent cable is very good, but with the Premier XL my soundstage seems more locked into focus. It makes me listen longer and longer. According to my salesman the cable should sound even better when its fully broken in.
|- Aaron M, OK|
This is a highly detailed tightly focused cable. Very transparent. Another winner from Pangea. Using with a Berkeley DAC/Aurender N10 combo. Sounds like real music.
|- Adam L, WI|
I wasn't prepared for the upgrade I heard with this cable. I was expecting subtle improvements in image focus and localization, but what I heard was a soundstage a mile deep. The better the recording, the more depth and detail I hear. This was a bigger upgrade than putting a new $300 power cord on my Auralic Vega DAC.
|- Buddy G, TN|